By Nathan Ham
After previous plans to continue the 14-day quarantine period for seasonal residents and hold off on removing short-term and hotel rental restrictions until June 5, the Watauga County Commissioners unanimously approved a plan to follow Governor Roy Cooper’s reopening guidelines for North Carolina, including Phase 2 which could begin as soon as Friday.
The decision means that the 14-day quarantine period will not be continued and that hotels and other short-term rentals can begin operating at 50 percent of their maximum capacity as soon as Phase 2 begins at the state level.
The county can revisit the plan should the governor change the statewide plan or if more COVID-19 cases begin showing up in the county.
According to the new plan put forward and approved by the commissioners, hotels and short-term rentals will operate at 50 percent capacity until the beginning of Phase 3 when all rentals could return to 100 percent capacity.
Watauga joins the neighboring counties of Ashe and Avery that have already allowed their short-term rentals and hotels to resume operations at 50 percent capacity and scrapped the 14-day quarantine requirements for seasonal residents.
What Will Local Town Councils Decide?
The next question that remains to be answered is if the local town councils in Boone and Blowing Rock will adopt similar measures or go in their own direction.
The Boone Town Council will meet on Thursday to consider issuing a declaration of its own for how businesses within the town limits can operate. Previously, the council explored proposals of continuing the 14-day quarantine for out-of-town visitors and residents and continuing short-term and hotel restrictions indefinitely or until a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for human use. The town proposals also included limiting local businesses to operate at 25 percent of their normal capacity indefinitely or until a COVID-19 vaccine is approved.
According to Boone Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO David Jackson, the Blowing Rock Town Council is reportedly meeting on Thursday, however no agenda has been posted for the meeting as of Wednesday morning. Several stores in Blowing Rock have already reopened at 50 percent capacity.